Torvalds had public conversations with his friend Dirk Hohndel, VMware’s Chief Open Source Officer. Torvalds, being interviewed on stage and Honndel had asked Linus what he spends his time on as a kernel maintainer.
“What do you do?”
“I read email. I read email, I write email, I do no coding at all any more. Recently some neighbor kids asked me what I do for a living. I read and write emails.” I told them. They weren’t very impressed.
He continued, “I don’t know coding at all anymore. Most of the code I write is in my e-mails. So somebody sends me a patch… I reply with pseudo code. I’m so used to editing patches now I sometimes edit patches and send out the patch without having ever tested it. I literally wrote it in the mail and say, ‘I think this is how it should be done,’ but this is what I do, I am not a programmer.”
In the end, he continued, “I read and write a lot of email. My job really is, in the end, is to say “no”. Somebody has to say “no” to this patch or that pull request. And because developers know that if they do something that I’ll say “no” to, they do a better job of writing the code. But in order to say “no”, I have to know the background. So I read email to know what’s going on.”
“One of my primary goals is to be very responsive to maintainers who send me patches or send me their pull request. I want to say yes or no within a day or two. A day or two may stretch into a week but I want to be there all the time. As a maintainer, I think that’s one of the main things you want to do. Being responsive is critical to enabling the team to function.”
In short, these days Linus Torvalds is a code manager and maintainer, not a developer.